The Old Testament of the Bible is a collection of texts that were written over a period of more than 900 years in several languages, based on oral traditions. This tradition was sung. Many of these works were corrected and completed in accordance with events and requirements.
Possibly during the tenth century B.C. the so called “Yahvist” text of the Pentateuch was first written down. This text was to form the backbone of the first five books of Moses and it was completed and revised between the 10th and 1st centuries B.C. (c. ” The Bible ” in the Encyclopedia Universalis by J.P.Sandroz, professor at the Dominican Faculties, Saulchoir).
Microsoft Encarta Encyclopedia 2001: “The Development of the Old Testament. By no means did all the books of the Old Testament originate at the same time and in the same place; rather, they are the product of Israelite faith and culture over a thousand years or more… Virtually all the books went through a long history of transmission and development before they were collected and canonized. Moreover, it is necessary to distinguish between traditional Jewish and Christian views concerning the authorship and date of the books and their actual literary history as it has been reconstructed by modern scholarship from the evidence in the biblical books and elsewhere… Many of the facts are not known, the history is long and often complicated, and older conclusions regularly are being revised under the weight of new evidence and methods. The general contours of that history can, however, be summarized.
For most Old Testament books it was a long journey from the time the first words were spoken or written to the work in its final form. That journey usually involved many people, such as storytellers, authors, editors, listeners, and readers. Not only individuals but different communities of faith played their parts.
Biblical Hebrew: The language in which most of the Old Testament was written dates, as a living language, from the 12th to the 2nd century BC, at the latest. From about the 3rd century BC the Jews in Palestine came to use Aramaic in both speech and secular writings…The vocabulary of biblical Hebrew is small…”
Maurice Bucaille, ‘The Bible, The Qur’an and Science’ #1): “To understand what the Old Testament represents, it is important to retain this information, correctly established today by highly qualified specialists. A Revelation is mingled in all these writings, but all we possess today is what men have seen fit to leave us. These men manipulated the texts to please themselves, according to the circumstances they were in and the necessities they had to meet. When these objective data are compared with those found in various prefaces to Bibles destined today for mass publication, one realizes that facts are presented in them in quite different way. Fundamental facts concerning the writing of the books are passed over in silence, ambiguities which mislead the reader are maintained, facts are minimalized to such an extent that a false idea of reality is conveyed. A large number of prefaces or introductions to the Bible misrepresent reality in this way. In the case of books that were adapted several times (like the Pentateuch), it is said that certain details may have been added later on. A discussion of an important passage of a book is introduced, but crucial facts warranting lengthy expositions are passed over in silence. It is distressing to see such inaccurate information on the Bible maintained for mass publication.”
The New Testament of the Bible consists of four Gospels ( reports about the life and teachings of Jesus) the acts of the Apostles (being the history of the early Christians), and Epistles of Paul etc. There are also many more religious texts, that are not included in the collection and this fact has resulted in some controversy in recent years, because they contradict in some points with the official view of the Churches. The 27 books of the New Testament are only a fraction of the literary production of the Christian communities in their first three centuries.
The principal types of New Testament documents (gospel, epistle, apocalypse) were widely imitated, and the names of apostles or other leading figures were attached to writings designed to fill in the silence of the New Testament (for example, on the childhood and youth of Jesus), to satisfy the appetite for more miracles, and to argue for new and fuller revelations. As many as 50 Gospels were in circulation during this time.
Gospel of Barnabas: “The Gospel of Barnabas was accepted as a Canonical Gospel in the Churches of Alexandria till 325 C.E. Iranaeus (130-200) wrote in support of pure monotheism and opposed Paul for injecting into Christianity doctrines of the pagan Roman religion and Platonic philosophy. He had quoted extensively from the Gospel of Barnabas in support of his views. This shows that the Gospel of Barnabas was in circulation in the first and second centuries of Christianity.
In 325 C.E., the Nicene Council was held, where it was ordered that all original Gospels in Hebrew script should be destroyed. An Edict was issued that any one in possession of these Gospels will be put to death. In 383 C.E., the Pope secured a copy of the Gospel of Barnabas and kept it in his private library…” (Read the whole Gospel)
Microsoft Encarta Encyclopedia 2001: “…It is now clear from extrabiblical writings of the period that the language of the New Testament is koine, or common Greek, that which was used in homes and marketplaces. Extant Greek manuscripts of the New Testament – complete, partial, or fragmentary – now number about 5,000. None of these, however, is an autograph, an original from the writer… The fruit of the labour of textual critics is an edition of the Greek New Testament that offers not only what is judged to be the best text but also includes notes indicating variant readings among the major manuscripts. The more significant of these variants usually appear in English translations as footnotes citing what other ancient authorities say (see, for example, Mark 16:9-20; John 7:53-8:11; Acts 8:37). Critical editions of the Greek New Testament have appeared with some regularity since the work of the Dutch scholar Desiderius Erasmus in the 16th century.
Knowledge of the literature of the period was greatly increased by the discovery in 1945 of the library of a heretical Christian group, the Gnostics, at Naj’ Hammadi, Egypt. This collection, written in Coptic, has been translated and published. Major scholarly attention has been focused on the Gospel of Thomas, which purports to be sayings of Jesus, 114 in all, delivered privately to Thomas, one of the 12 apostles… Tracing the history of the development of the New Testament canon by noting which of the books were quoted or cited by the early Fathers of the Church is an uncertain process. Too much is made of silence…”
O. Culmann in his book “The New Testament” #2)
says, that the evangelists were only the “spokesmen of the early Christian community which wrote down the oral tradition. For thirty or forty years, the Gospels had existed as an almost exclusively oral tradition: the latter only transmitted sayings and isolated narratives. The evangelists strung them together, eacl. in his own way according to his own character and theological preoccupations. They linked up the narrations and sayings handed down by the prevailing tradition. The grouping of Jesus’ sayings and likewise the sequence of narratives is made by the use of fairly vague linking phrases such as ‘after this’, ‘when he had’ etc. In other words, the ‘framework’ of the Synoptic Gospels (Gospels of Mark, Mathhew and Luke) is of a purely literary order and is not based on history.”
Father Kannengiesser: “The Gospels ‘are not to be taken literally’ .. they are ‘writings suited to an occasion’ or ‘ combat writings’. Their authors ‘ are writing down the traditions of their community concerning Jesus’.” #4)
The Gospels are texts which “.. are suitable for various circles, meet the needs of the Church, explain observations on the Scriptures, correct errors and even, on occasion, answer adversaries’ objections. Thus, the evangelists, each according to his own outlook, have collected and recorded in writing the material given to them by the oral tradition”. (c. Ecumenical Translation of the Bible)
Jesus Christ declares, that the message he was delivering was not his but God’s: “I have not spoken of myself; but the Father which sent me, He gave me a commandment, what I should say, and what I should speak” (Bible, John-12.49)
In the Arabian Peninsula Mohammad (p.b.u.h.) was born in 570 A.D. and came to deliver a message from God to people who until that time had not got any revelation at all and were living with hundreds of gods.
They were engaged in bloody tribal wars and made a living from Caravan trade between the eastern Mediterranean, North-African and Asian countries. Modest farming in the oases of the Arabian desert was possible and keeping live stock like sheep, cows and camels.
A source of wealth for Mecca was also the ‘Kaaba’, built by Prophet Abraham and his son Ismael over 4000 years ago, where the idols and gods were kept and people visiting them brought wealth and trade to the community. Later in Islam Kaaba was cleared from these idols and it became the most important place of worship for the believers. The “Black Stone”, a meteorite from the pre-Islamic period is still kept in Kaaba today. It is not mentioned in the Qur’an and has no significant meaning in Islam.
Another large mosque was later built in Medina next to the grave of the Prophet (p.b.u.h.). These two mosques with the third one, Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem, are considered as the three most holy places of Islam.
TIME Article: “Jerusalem was central to the spiritual identity of Muslims from the very beginning of their faith. When the Prophet Mohammad first began to preach in Mecca in about 612, according to the earliest biographies, which are our primary source of information about him, he had his converts prostrate themselves in prayer in the direction of Jerusalem. They were symbolically reaching out toward the Jewish and Christian God, whom they were committed to worshipping, and turning their back on the paganism of Arabia.
The Qur’an venerates the great prophets of the Judeo-Christian tradition. It speaks of Solomon’s ‘great place of prayer’ in Jerusalem, which the first Muslims called ‘City of the Temple’. Only after the Jews of Medina rejected Muhammad did he switch orientation and instruct his adherents to pray facing Mecca, whose ancient shrine, the Kabah (Kaaba), was thought by locals to have been built by Abraham and his son Ishmael, the father of the Arabs.
When Caliph Umar (Omar), one of Muhammad’s successors, conquered the Jerusalem of the Christian Byzantines in 638, he insisted that the three faiths of Abraham coexist.
He refused to pray in the Church of the Holy Sepulcher when he was escorted around the city by the Greek Orthodox Patriarch. Had he done so, he explained, the Muslims would have wanted to build a mosque there to commemorate the first Islamic prayer in Jerusalem. The Jews found their new Muslim rulers far more congenial than the Byzantines.
The Christians had never allowed the Jews to reside permanently in the city, whereas Umar invited 70 Jewish families back. The Byzantines had left the Jewish Temple in ruins and had even begun to use the Temple Mount as a garbage dump. Umar, according to a variety of accounts, was horrified to see this desecration. He helped clear it with his own hands, reconsecrated the platform and built a simple wooden mosque on the southern end, site of al-Aqsa Mosque today.
Jerusalem’s Dome of the Rock, built by Caliph Abd al-Malik in 691, was the first great building to be constructed in the Islamic world. In the middle of it is believed to be the rock, where Abraham nearly scarified his son Isaac. Other Islamic shrines on the Temple Mount, which Muslims call al-Haram al-Sharif (the Most Noble Sanctuary) were devoted to David, Solomon and Jesus.
After the bloodbath of the Crusades, when Saladin reconquered Jerusalem for Islam in 1187, the Jews (barred from the city by the Crusaders) were invited to return, and even the Western Christians, who had supported the crusading atrocities, were allowed back. In the 16th century, Ottoman Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent permitted the Jews to make the Western Wall their official holy place and had his court architect Sinan build an oratory for them there.”
The advent of Islam brought about a social revolution in the Arabian peninsula, as the new religion fought against slavery, the mistreatment of women and other social injustices, that had become an accepted way of life.
Islam became one of the world’s great religions, in part because of its openness to social change and new ideas. In just a hundred years Prophet Mohammad’s (p.b.u.h.) vision had transformed the spiritual and political map of the world and his followers had established an empire larger than Rome. Centuries ago, when Europe was mired in its feudal Dark Ages, the sages of a flourishing Islamic civilization opened an era of great scientific and philosophical discovery. The ideas of the ancient Greeks and Romans might never have been introduced to Europe were it not for the Islamic historians and philosophers who re-discovered and revived them.
Muslim scholars had no reservations to study and translate scientific theories that their Christian counterparts found blasphemous. Muslim doctors in Baghdad hospitals treated mental illnesses and i.e. performed cataract operations on the human eye a thousand years before westerners acquired the ability to do so. Arabs invented the production of paper.
Books were copied and recopied by hundreds of writers, including women. There is said to have existed a street in Baghdad with around a hundred bookstores, when at the same time a monastery in Europe was lucky to own four or five books.
Unfortunately, I must admit, in recent times Islam has had serious problems concerning these values. Why was it possible for the sciences to reach such high levels when Islam was much closer to its beginnings? The only answer to that question can be the failure of Islamic scholars to adjust the message to changing times, as it turned more and more intolerant to freedom of expression and free thinking. The Prophet (p.b.u.h.) stressed the value of education – for both sexes – and asked Muslims to seek knowledge in China if necessary!
“Schools” within Islam : There are four different schools of jurisprudence within Islam and much blood has been spilt over disputes between them. “Many Muslim countries would have been spared much of the internal political conflict in which advocates of Islam were involved, had the ’seerah’ (i.e. the Prophet’s personal and public history) been better studied and understood by Muslims generally. Such a study will show that Islam dislikes all types of war and approves of it only as a last resort, when the very existence of Islam or its basic principles are threatened. Islam has even an even greater dislike of armed conflict, and indeed of all types of strife within its home base or in populated areas.” (c. Adil Salahi) .
“While the Five Pillars and the ‘Sharia’ remain the common basis of faith and practice for all Muslims, at the same time Islam incorporated a variety of beliefs and activities that grew out of religious and historical experience and the needs of specific Muslim communities. The inherent unity of faith, implicit in statements like ‘one God, one Book, one (final) Prophet’, should not deter one from appreciating the rich diversity that has characterized the religious (legal, theological, and devotional) life of the Islamic community.” (c. “Islam, the straight Path” by John L. Esposito) #3)
Quoting Adil Salahi (Arab News 26.11.2001): “The position of the four schools of thought in Islam: Islam spread into wide areas shortly after the Prophet’s death (p.b.u.h.). Life in these areas presented numerous situations which had no ruling in the Qur’an and the Sunnah to show the Muslims how to behave concerning them. Moreover, the passage of time presents new situations and problems, all of which need to be considered in the light of Islam, so as to determine the right Islamic conduct concerning them. This means that scholars need to come up with answers to such questions on the basis of Islamic teaching outlined in the Qur’an and Sunnah. Muslim scholars started to do so right from the early days if Islam. The Prophet’s companions included a number of scholars who were able to deduce rulings on the basis of the Qur’an and what they heard the Prophet saying in different situations. This established a tradition of construction and deduction which allowed that a ruling is available to cater for all cases. Over a period of two or three generations, the process led to a movement toward schools of thought or schools of law in various areas. With the turn of the first century of the Islamic era, the founders of some these schools were looking into all matters relevant to Islamic life in their generation. We find Imam Malik in Medinah and Imam Abu Haneefah in Iraq distinguished for their scholarship and having students from far and wide learning under them. A short while later, Imam El-Shafie and Imam Ahmad ibn Hanbal gained wide fame and reputation. A school of thought is established through a process of several generations of scholars following the same lines of deduction and construction. These scholars will also be of high caliber, able to deduce new rulings for new situations. They follow the same lines as their school and its founder.
In the History of Islam, there were numerous scholars of high caliber. They continued the tradition of diligent scholarship. At the time of the founders of the four schools, there were many others who were of equal and even better caliber, and they ruled on numerous questions, but there were not many scholars over several generations to follow their tradition. That is why they did not become associated with independent schools of thought. Otherwise their views remain valid in the questions they considered. There is no virtue in having only four schools of thought. Indeed we have many more.
There is no ruling that one must follow a single school of thought. Indeed, very rarely anyone does that. A scholar who has studied these schools of thought will take rulings from each, according to suitability to different situations. If he is considering a question put to him, he will try to give the ruling which is most suitable for the person’s own school of thought. That is because there is no obligation to follow any of them.
For example, if a couple get married and the woman’s father or guardian is not present. The woman acts for herself and consents to the marriage in front of witnesses. If the case is put to a scholar, he does not ask the couple which school of thought they follow. He will rule that the marriage is valid, in spite of the fact that three schools of thought do not approve of it. He will take the fourth school’s view which approves of it, because otherwise he would make the couple adulterers and their children illegitimate. An ordinary person will not realize what rulings are made on the basis of qiyas, or analogy, and ijmaa’, or unanimity of scholars. When he is told of a ruling that has been approved by scholars, he should implement it unless he has a legitimate abjection to it on the basis of accurate knowledge of the Qur’an and Sunnah.”
The Sunni Muslims form he majority of Muslims today and a small minority of less than 10% are called Shi’ite Muslims (state religion i.e. in Iran) who split from the Sunnis over a dispute about the successor to Prophet Mohammad (p.b.u.h.). Especially their belief in ’saints’ and ‘heavenly Imams’ is quite offensive for Sunni-Muslims.
After receiving some harsh criticism from that corner I have spent some time studying the differences. I was horrified to read some of aspects of the Islamic law practiced in Iran. For much of it there is absolutely no basis in the Qur’an (like the stoning to death, which is not mentioned in the Qur’an), so it must be based on the Hadiths (orally transmitted traditions).
Quoting : “The protracted contrariety between Islam and Shi’ism is but a clear reflection of fundamental differences between the two. The only common denominator between Islam and Shi’ism is the Islamic Kalimah. The rest of Shi’ism has very little in common with mainstream Islam… The Imaams can bring the dead back to life. No knowledge of the heavens and the earth is hidden from them. …The Qur’an is incomplete and distorted in its present form. This tenet had been explicitly propounded by the classical scholars of Shi’ism, but frugally denied by the contemporary scholars…”
Like in any other faith, there are numerous Sects within Islam. Also in the USA i.e. there is a small group that I personally find quite offensive and racist, called “The Nation of Gods and Earths” or “5% Network” which originated in prison teaching that “That the Blackman is god and his proper name is ALLAH”.
Quote #5: “Followers of the Hanifa, Shafi, Hanibal and Malik schools are called Sunni Muslims and constitute a 90% majority of the believers. They are considered to be main stream traditionalists. Because they are comfortable pursuing their faith within secular societies, they have been able to adapt to a variety of national cultures, while following their three sources of law: the Qur’an, Hadith and consensus of Muslims.
Followers of the Jafri school are called Shi’ite Muslims and constitute a small minority of Islam. They split from the Sunnis over a dispute about the successor to Mohammad. Their leaders, Imams promote a strict interpretation of the Qur’an and close adherents to its teachings. They believe in 12 heavenly Imams (perfect teachers) who guide the faithful from their locations in Paradise.
There are over 70 other groups which originated within Islam and broke away from the Sunni and Shi’ite faith communities: Sufism, a mystic tradition in which followers seek inner knowledge directly from God through meditation and ritual and dancing. They developed late in the 10th century (A.D.) from the Shi’ite group as an ascetic reaction to the formalism and laws of the Qur’an. They incorporated ideas from Neo-platonism, Buddhism, and Christianity. They emphasize personal union with the divine.
Baha’i World Faith: This is an attempt to integrate all of the world religions. It was originally a break-away sect from Islam but has since grown to become a separate religion.
Ahmadis: Followers of the Ahmadiyya Movement believe that God sent Ahmad as a Messiah, “a messenger of His in this age who has claimed to have come in the spirit and power of Jesus Christ. He has come to call all people around one Faith, i.e. Islam…” The movement’s founder was Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad (1835-1908). He was born in Qadian, India. He felt that he had a mandate from God to correct a serious error within Christianity. Most Christians believe that Jesus is a member of the Godhead. “…because Jesus, whom God sent as a Messiah to the Israelites was taken for a God, Divine jealousy ordained that another man (Ahmad) should be sent as Messiah so that the world may know that the first Messiah was nothing more than a weak mortal.” After his death, the community elected a series of Khalifas (successors). The current and “Fourth Successor (Khalifatul Masih IV), to the Promised Messiah was chosen in the person of Hazrat Mirza Tahir Ahmad” on June 10. 1982. The Ahmadiyya Community currently has more than 10 million members worldwide. They are heavily persecuted in Pakistan.
Black Muslim Movement (BMM): This is largely a black urban movement in the US. One driving force was a rejection of Christianity as the religion of the historically oppressing white race. It was started by Wallace Fard who built the first temple in Detroit. Elijah Muhammad (born Elijah Poole) established a second temple in Chicago and later supervised the creation of temples in most large cities with significant black populations. They taught that blacks were racially superior to whites and that a racial war is inevitable. The charismatic Malcolm X was perhaps their most famous spokesperson; he plaid an important role in reversing the BMM’s anti-white beliefs. In its earlier years, the movement deviated significantly from traditional Islamic beliefs (particularly over matters of racial tolerance, the status of the BMM leaders as prophets). This deviation is being reversed.”
#1) Maurice Bucaille, “The Bible, The Qur’an and Science “
#2) O. Culmann: “The New Testament, Le Nouveau Testament “, Presses Universitaires de France, Paris, 1967
#3) “Islam, the Straight Path.” by John L. Esposito (prof. at Georgetown Univ.), Oxford University Press Inc., New York
#4) Father Kannengiesser: “Faith in the Resurrection, Resurrection of Faith” (Foi en la Resurrection, Resurrection de la Foi), 1974